Just a few more words about the Black Warrior races yesterday. I barely mentioned the course and conditions in yesterday's post, so I thought I'd ramble about it a little. I haven't seen any official results yet, but when they're posted, I'll put a link here. Part of me really wonders if the 2:06 for me is accurate! My Garmin was so messed up that I don't have another source other than my memory of the clock. 2:06 seems a little fast for my capabilities and how I felt. I felt like I could have and should have run harder. If the official results show something like 2:20, I'll just wipe the egg off my face and move on. I'll blame my failing memory on aging.
It was just a little colder than ideal to start the race. It was probably just below freezing. The start is on a bridge over Brushy Lake (Pond), and it's a little cooler and windier there by the water. Once we got on the trails, it felt much warmer and there was no wind. After the race, it felt cold and windy at race headquarters. It was probably in the mid 40's by 11:00.
The course starts on a bridge with about a 2.5 miles of gravel road leading to the trails. According to my Garmin, you gain about 280 feet in the first 1.1 miles. Then, the road is rolling for about another mile, losing maybe 20 of those 280 feet. Then, it drops about 100 feet over the next half mile before the turn to the trail. For some reason, you forget that 100 feet of drop by the time you make it back to the road from the trail, and the gravel road seems uphill both ways!
The conditions of the trails were MUDDY! It was not as muddy as two weeks ago, but by all accounts, the course was muddier than last year's race. The trails are really runnable for the most part, though. The first 4 miles of trail are curvy, rolling, and relatively easy. There are a few muddy sections and a few streams (less than ankle deep) to cross. It is not rocky at all, though. It's mostly leaves, pine straw, dirt, mud, and a few tree roots. If you're racing, you really need to speed through this section of the trails. (Note to self for next year.)
After about 4 miles, the trail crosses the same gravel road. There is an aid station there. The trail stays easy for another 3/4 mile or so, then it gets a little trickier. There is much MUD and a few rocky sections as it rolls, ultimately descending into what is the prettiest portion of the 25k race. There is a nice waterfall coming down from a bluff on the left. The trail crosses over the stream and begins a rocky, slightly ascending portion of the trail. Then, the 50k and the 25k split. I have no idea what the 50k portion looks like. I plan to go run the back portion of the 50k soon.
Shortly after the split, there was a huge, fresh, green pine tree across the trail! I wasn't sure how to get around it! I thought about going over, but it was too big. I ended up running around the top of the tree and back to the trail. That looked like it happened only a couple of days ago!
After the split, there are more rolling hills and much MUD. This goes on for about 2.5 miles, then the trail begins to ascend on the way back to the gravel road. The trail gains about 200 feet over this last 1.5 miles. This is the section of the trail that cost me positioning in the race. 10th place passed me here. I was struggling, low on water, not sure where I was, and somewhat discouraged. I was thinking that I was much nearer to 2:30 than to 2:00. I knew there was no one else in sight or sound behind me, so I yielded to the temptation to take it easy up the hill. I decided too late to keep 10th place close enough to take over him in the last 2.7 on the road.
Where the trail meets the road, there is an aid station, and you have to remember the 100 feet you lost on the way to the trail. It really seems uphill both ways. When you get over the 100 feet in a half mile, it rolls for another mile or so. Then it is significantly downhill to the finish. POUR IT ON!!! Mile 15 of a 15.5 mile race was by far my fastest! And the last half was an even faster average pace than mile 15, though it does turn slightly uphill for the last 400 yards or so.
All in all, it is a VERY nice trail race. I happen to enjoy the mud and I really like the course. I don't know if I'll do the 25k or the 50k next year, but this is definitely a race I want to keep on my calendar.